Rugby World Cup: Anthony Watson Q&A

The young England player some are calling ‘the next Jason Robinson’ speaks to Met-Rx about his training in the build up to the Rugby World Cup

Q It’s a long tournament build-up so how will things kick off for the England squad’s training camp under Chris Robshaw’s captaincy?

A. It’s a case of trying to get in as much strength and conditioning in as possible so that we’re peaking at the right time. It’s good to get the boys in as early as possible so that we can start gelling before such a huge occasion.

Q. As a winger you have to be strong but also fast - how do you balance the two?

A. A lot of the drills that we do are position-specific so that backs are going to be doing different drills to the forwards in order to develop power, as well as speed. We do a lot of explosive and reactive stuff at the end of the week, such as box jumps, which are key for me. That’s opposed to the heavy lifting that we do at the start of the week to build strength.

Q. The injury rate could decide who carries the trophy home, so how early does injury prevention work for you?

A. The pre-hab never stops - we’ve been told that when we’re on breaks we need to activate certain muscles, including stabilising muscles to make sure that they are not under-activated. We have to stay on top of it.

Q. Do you do any specific injury-proofing drills?

A. Yes we also do speed drills - A skips and B skips in order to get technically correct before we try to run fast. If you don’t get that right first then you’re going to end up injuring yourself.

Q.You’ve been known to ‘side-step players in a phone box’, just as Jason Robinson once did in an England shirt - was he an inspiration?

A. I used to watch Jason Robinson on TV and the main thing for me was his counter attacking, and his ability to be able to change the game instantly. The way the crowd would roar whenever he got the ball and counter attacked was massively inspiring.

Q. Your try in the opening match of the Six Nations showed the hallmarks of a world-class finisher - how did it feel?

A. My best moment in an England shirt was winning that opening game against Wales in the Millennium Stadium. That was a massively hyped up game and to go into a cauldron like the Millennium Stadium, and get a win in a close-fought game like that was huge - a moment I will never forget.

Q. The game of rugby gets harder and faster every season - what’s changing on the training side to keep pace?

A. The main thing for me that’s changing is the importance of recovery. With the games getting faster and the players getting bigger, then bodies are obviously more sore on a Sunday. We’ve worked with cryo chambers at Bath this year - it has something to do with shocking the heart and venous return that speeds up recovery. The benefits are huge, even though being in the chamber when it’s that cold (-70°C for 30 seconds, then or -130°C for 90 seconds) isn’t the most pleasurable thing!

Q. And what about nutrition? What role does that have in recovery?

A. The MaxiNutrition protein shake with carbohydrates is key, straight after a game you need to get that stuff into your system, in sub-30 minutes to get the most benefits - it’s by your peg straight after the game.

Q. Does the England squad have any secret training weapons up its sleeve?

A. Yeah - the Wattbike - that thing is my nemesis! It’s just as well you caught me twenty minutes after the session - ten minutes after and I probably wouldn’t be able to talk! It’s horrible - but once you’re off it it’s a great feeling to have done it and you definitely reap the benefits when you’re on the pitch in terms of dealing with lactic acid build-up.

Q. What about the mental side of the game - you’ve been working with a sports psychologist on that?

A. Yes Donald MacPherson has been massively instrumental in me being able to go out there and just enjoy the rugby, and have confidence that I’ve put in all the hard work in training. Sport is about staying in the moment - you can’t get too ahead of yourself, and if you make a mistake it’s been and done. You can’t change it so you’ve just got to try to impact the game with your next involvement.

Q. Assuming the selection goes well are you looking forward to the first game of the Rugby World Cup?

A. We’ve got a tough group but it’s going to be good for us to play tough teams early on because it will put us in good stead going forwards. It’s going to be a massive tournament, but it’s one that all the boys are privileged to be involved with and are hugely looking forward to being in.